Our Global Gourmet recipe series is designed to bring the foods we loved while traveling into our own kitchens and onto our own dinner tables.
The key to recreating International dishes at home is to start with an authentic recipe, adapt it to substitute ingredients you can’t find or don’t know how to work with, and simplify difficult techniques. Then it becomes more approachable and possible to make and enjoy at home.
This Global Gourmet recipe is a dish we fell in love with while traveling in Greece.
Greek Lamb Souvlaki
Typically, souvlaki is served in Greece as street food, or you’ll find it in a little neighborhood shop, where you can just pop in for some souvlaki, tzatziki, pita and a beer.
I can’t really remember the first time I had souvlaki in the U.S., but do remember eating it for the first time in Greece. I loved how readily available it was everywhere, and how cheap it is! You can get a pita with souvlaki for just a few dollars, so it’s really economical and it makes the perfect lunch.
The awesome part about souvlaki – aside from the fact that it tastes incredible – is that you can make it with just about any protein you want. It’s often made with chicken, pork or lamb – your choice!
If I can find it easily, I always go with lamb, but when I’m in a hurry, pork is a great substitute. The rest of the flavor is all about the marinade, and I’m excited to share my version with you.
Pairing Souvlaki with Beer
When you’re walking through a neighborhood in Greece and pass by all the cute little shops selling souvlaki and gyros, you’ll notice that it’s almost always eaten with beer. Greece has a few popular beers that can sometimes (though maybe rarely) be found in the U.S.
Three of the top brands are Mythos, Athenian, and Fix. If you’re able to find any of those to go along with your souvlaki, you’re good to go.
If you can’t find a Greek beer, don’t worry! There are lots of good alternatives. Mythos is a light lager, which goes with just about any food. There are a lot of lagers on the market today. You should pick out one you’ve had before and know you like. I tend to lean toward local craft beer when choosing something good (Seattle has a ton of awesome craft beers! Read about them here).
Most breweries are open to the public and have tasting samples you can try, until you find one you like. If you can’t settle on a lager on your own, go with Heineken. It’s the universal brand. Available everywhere.
Pairing Souvlaki with Wine
You will probably have the same problem finding a Greek wine as you will with finding the beer, as they aren’t very widely distributed in the United States. But if you can’t find a Greek wine, a U.S. wine suffice.
The wine that I am recommending to go with your lamb souvlaki is one that I fell in love with from the Walla Walla wine region. It’s from Northstar Winery. They really shine with their Merlots. This Northstar Merlot will pair very well with the lamb. The fruitiness and structure will hold up to the lemony marinade, as well.
You can buy them online at wine.com, directly from the link. They should also be fairly easy to find at your local wine retailer.
How to Make Greek Souvlaki
For the lamb, try to go with a lamb leg or shoulder. For pork, I always use pork shoulder. I often find lamb shoulder already cubed up into perfect bite-sized pieces at Whole Foods, but if you can’t get it that way, it’s easy to cube up at home. I highly encourage marinating the meat at least overnight, if not for 24 hours.
The flavor that the meat is able to soak up intensifies the longer you leave it. But if you really can’t do it, try for at least 4 hours. Anything shorter than that is just not really going to impart enough flavor.
Souvlaki is best cooked on a barbecue grill over high heat with some flames to crisp up the meat. If you cook it high enough, you’ll end up with a juicy, perfectly cooked morsel of meat with light charring on the edges. If you cook it too slow and low, you may end up with dry and overcooked meat. If you’re not lucky enough to have an outdoor BBQ grill, maybe try an indoor grill!
I always recommend using a high-quality meat thermometer to test the meat as it cooks, so you don’t accidentally overdo it. We use the Thermapen Mk4 from Thermoworks. I could not be happier with it. It’s truly the most instant-read thermometer I’ve ever used and its sharp point doesn’t damage the meat as it’s cooking. If you don’t have a good meat thermometer yet, you should absolutely get one!
Also, something that will make your life easier at home when making any type of meat or vegetable skewers is metal skewers. Not only are they reusable, they are more sturdy, won’t burn like wooden ones, don’t require soaking before hand, and they usually have a boxy shape so they’re easy to flip and don’t just spin inside the meat when you try to turn them.
This recipe couldn’t get any easier. There are very few ingredients, and the process is so simple. The time intensive part is just marinating the meat, which is truly essential to getting the right amount of flavor.
Greek lamb souvlaki is made with tender chunks of lamb meat, grilled on a skewer with onions and lemons.
For the souvlaki
- 1 1/2 lbs lamb shoulder cut into 2-inch cubes
- 1 large onion cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 lemon sliced
- Wooden skewers soak in water for 30 minutes prior to use
- Pita bread
For the marinade
- 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp onion finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 teaspoons Greek oregano
- Salt and Pepper
For the Tzatziki
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup English cucumber peeled and finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Mix ingredients for the marinade with a whisk in a medium bowl. Add the lamb shoulder pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 4 - 24 hours. Take lamb from refrigerator at least 20 minutes before cooking so it warm to room temperature.
- Mix the ingredients for the tzatziki together and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 min. prior to serving so flavors can meld.
- Alternate skewering the lamb, onion pieces, and lemon slices onto the soaked wooden skewers. Place at least 1 inch apart on a pre-heated grill over high heat until done (150-degree internal temperature).
- Serve skewers with tzatziki sauce and warm pita bread.
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